When I wrote about the three critical documents you need to work with a freelance writer, I never dreamed of a company that would want a freelancer to sign a non-compete agreement. But very recently, a prospective client sent over a non-compete agreement disguised as a non-disclosure agreement. I was taken aback, but ultimately I view it as a chance to educate other companies on why freelancer writers worth their salt won’t sign one.

It Will Kill Your Freelance Writer’s Livelihood.

Seriously, it will ruin your freelance writer’s chances of finding work. The non-compete agreements I’ve seen are broad. Potentially any client that does anything even remotely similar could be a competitor, according to these agreements. If a non-compete agreement is so broad that it prevents a freelancer from finding work, it’s going to be a non-starter. (My favorite non-compete said “any company, including but limited to those that sell, provide…technology…”. That’s pretty much every client I have.)

You have to trust your freelancer a little. Most freelancers are fine with signing a non-disclosure agreement. If you’re an agency, we’re totally cool with not going after your clients directly. Put that in an agreement, and we’re going to honor it. (At least, I will. I don’t poach clients, nor do I share what I’ve learned with a client’s competitors. That’s not cool.)

Your Freelancer Is Not an Employee.

I’m not an employee of my clients. I don’t get a W-2, a 401(k), and a health plan. While I get steady work from some of my clients, I don’t have one single client that pays me the equivalent of a full-time salary, and I’m okay with that.

Put simply, freelance writers are just that: freelance. They’re contract employees that you bring on for a short period of time. Prohibiting them from finding work with companies that may do something remotely similar or work with another agency really is a non-starter. Freelancers need to have a full client roster. Unless you’re prepared to pay your freelancer a full-time salary, consider other documents to protect the confidentiality of your information. Talk to your legal department and find out what protections you have. Chances are, a non-disclosure will suffice.